The GSB Interview: Monica Rowand, Bringing Green-Sports to the University of Louisiana; Part II, Leading the Sustainable Sports Charge in Lafayette

Monica Rowand is one of the brightest, young stars in the Green-Sports world as she helps to lead the University of Louisiana’s (Lafayette) athletic department’s burgeoning sustainability efforts. 

Despite Monica’s youth, her story is rich and deep, so much so that we’re dividing the interview into two parts. In yesterday’s Part I delved into her lifelong love affair with sports, her discovery of Green-Sports at UCLA and her work with Dave Newport and University of Colorado-Boulder’s powerhouse Green-Sports program.

In today’s Part II, we move with Monica to 1,200 miles to the southeast to Lafayette, LA to find out what she and the University of Louisiana’s sustainability department are doing to green the Ragin’ Cajuns athletics department. 

 

To read Part I, click here

 

GSB: So what did you do after you got your MBA?

Monica: After graduating CU-Boulder in May 2017, I really wanted to stay in sustainable sports and would go anywhere to do it. My dad sort of became my agent and sent me the job listing at University of Louisiana in Lafayette for a sustainability coordinator — who turned out to be ME!

 

RowandM2

Monica Rowand (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

GSB: I’m not surprised! I know you haven’t been in Lafayette long but I wonder what differences you’ve noticed between your new home, about 135 miles west of New Orleans, and Boulder — aside, of course, from the humidity. My guess is it’s a more complex comparison than the stereotypical Red State Lafayette and crunchy-granola-y Blue State Boulder.

Monica: Well, it is very early days for me here. But to compare the two, my observation is that the pride of place here is more powerful than it is in Boulder — and it’s strong there. But you can feel the pride people have for Lafayette. And that extends to athletics — the connection the community has to UL athletics is greater than it is in Boulder and CU is in the Pac-12, a Power 5 conference, and UL is in the less prominent Sun Belt Conference.

GSB: What a great atmosphere to be a part of. Was the sustainability department already involved in Green-Sports before you got to Lafayette?

Monica: Not in the way I was accustomed to from CU. During the interview process, I was blunt about wanting to build an award-winning Green-Sports platform and that we would use it to build the profile and impact of sustainability for the entire campus. Sustainability director Gretchen Vanicor, who would become my boss, agreed.

GSB: Was it a hard sell?

Monica: I thought I’d have a harder time, to be honest with you. But, like I said, Gretchen was on board during my interview process and then, once I started, the athletics department bought in almost immediately. Interestingly, Learfield won the right to market UL Athletics a few months before I started. Soon after I started, I told our Learfield rep about what we did with Ralphie’s Green Stampede, the sustainability initiative at CU-Boulder Athletics and said I’d like to build something like that with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

GSB: But with CU, the Green-Sports infrastructure was in place…

Monica: You’re right, Lew. It’s definitely a slower build here in Lafayette. Our goal is to be Zero-Waste in football and then all sports and on campus.

GSB: What’s the time frame?

Monica: Not clear yet. But we only started recycling at Cajun Field and in the parking lots in 2014. Of course there’s no way we’re going to get to Zero-Waste unless we can compost. I asked Gretchen about it and she said “let’s go for it”. Which was incredible on her part. I started at UL in June and we kicked off our composting efforts just last month at our home football games.

 

Rowand Recycle

GSB: That is very fast…

Monica: I know!! And composting at UL is not easy, as it turns out.

GSB: Why not?

Monica: The main problem was there is nowhere in the entire state of Louisiana to send commercial-scale organic waste to be composted. But we found a solution — composting on our own, at the Cade Experimental Farm. Which was phenomenal. But then there were permitting issues to get it hauled to the farm.

GSB: Really? What are those?

Monica: Well, without getting too much in the weeds here, the compost operations in Louisiana are traditionally only for things like agricultural byproducts and yard waste. We worked with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to create a plan that allows for a maximum 15 percent of our compost pile to be made up of food and compostable service ware from football games. We need to prove to them that our “cocktail” of compostable plastic straws, plates, paper and such, is pure enough to not hinder the decomposition process. It’s now a Living Lab project for the University and we hope it will lead to greater post-consumer compost efforts in the state. We’ve already been contacted by festivals, food prep companies, and restaurants who have been looking for somewhere to send their compost!

GSB: No composting in the state so you decide to do it in house – BRILLIANT! For how long have the Ragin’ Cajuns been using compostable cutlery and flatware?

Monica: We just started that this season — again Gretchen, and thankfully our food service provider Sodexo, bought in immediately. We also have Zero Waste Goalies help fans during the game and then go sort through our compost bags to remove any contamination.

GSB: Who are the Zero Waste Goalies?

Monica: A mix of student volunteers, some Americorps volunteers and staff. Also we donate unused food through Second Harvest to local groups who can use it. And, since they can’t be recycled in our single stream system, we collect plastic bags and film separately and take them to a local grocery store.

 

Green Goalies UL

University of Louisiana Zero Waste Goalies at Cajun Field (Photo credit: Monica Rowand)

 

GSB: Do you have results for diversion rates for the early season games?

Monica: Not yet, but based on the cubic feet of our bins I estimate we diverted about 50 percent of waste from inside the stadium. That will change because we measure diversion by weight and not size – but I’ll keep you posted. Our goal for the season is to achieve an average 65 percent total diversion.

GSB: Are you going to do the same thing with basketball?

Monica: Basketball is different. The team plays in the Cajundome which is not owned by the university. So we don’t have control of the venue and thus what we can do there is limited, at least for the time being. We will be looking at it, though. Baseball is next.

GSB: You must be thrilled with that!

Monica: I am indeed. It’s very big here. We’re not sure about the compost piece yet with baseball but definitely will increase recycling. Soccer is also something we will look at, as well as other Olympic sports. One great thing is that our office sits under the office of the university president, so sustainability has a seat at the table for athletics and beyond.

 

Moore Field Ragin Cajuns

M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park, home of Ragin’ Cajuns baseball, the next sport up for greening at the University of Louisiana (Photo credit: RaginCajuns.com)

 

GSB: Going beyond waste, what is UL Athletics looking to do, if anything, regarding on-site renewables, energy efficiency, and more?

Monica: Great question. Once we get to where we want to be on waste diversion, we are going to take on transportation next. My goal is to build a mini-Boulder on clean transportation. We want to improve our bus system by creating a loop that will dramatically cut down car miles driven on campus. Bike share is already here; car ride sharing is on the drawing board. On energy, UL is at the leading edge of research on renewables. Ten percent of the campus’ electricity already comes from solar; we have a 1.1 megawatt (mW) solar farm tied directly into our grid about one mile from the stadium.

GSB: That’s great to hear. With all the work going on in Athletics and campus wide on waste, transportation and energy, how is the sustainability department connecting that to climate change?

Monica: We haven’t yet. Pride of place, a healthy environment, conservation and quality of life? Absolutely. We’re staying away from climate change right now.

GSB: Why do you think that is, what do you think will change it and when might that happen? Not to put any pressure on you, of course.

Monica: Climate change is a more difficult topic to grasp and sometimes hard to draw the connection in a few words or sentences. Behavior change 101 is to know your audience. We have to make tangible connections we know our audience has.

It relates back to what I said about the strong Ragin’ Cajun fan identity. South Louisianans, like no other place I’ve lived – and I’ve lived in some gorgeous states – have a uniquely strong connection with their geography and environment. Take fishing for example. Whether it is for economic or recreation purposes, people here are in touch with the ecosystems that provide that opportunity. Things that harm that, say water pollution or salt water intrusion, are issues of concern.

In the case of zero waste and compost, yes, it is a means for reducing atmospheric methane emissions from landfills, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that lead to climate change, but closer to home for people in South Louisiana, is the concept of “Cajuns Don’t Waste”. Some of the biggest local culinary traditions were created based on that concept – using every part of the pig at a boucherie, mixing smaller quantities of ingredients together for dishes like gumbo and jambalaya. Food in particular is a valuable resource that should not just be mindlessly discarded, but milked for all it’s got to offer. In the case of compost, we want to keep the nutrients from our organic waste in play by collecting, composting, and spreading the resulting soil back on our farms and gardens.

GSB: That is terrific, and well said, Monica. The thing is, especially in light of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the threat from climate change is more pressing, more immediate than even previously thought, with potentially catastrophic consequences appearing by 2040. So I get the basic conundrum: Folks in Ragin’ Cajun territory may not be ready for climate change messaging but the clock is ticking. Think about it this way: The UL Class of 2040 is being born now. So bringing climate change messaging to this audience ain’t gonna be easy. Far from it. But I know you are up for the challenge – that’s why UL is lucky to have you. You, Gretchen and company can do this! I look forward to keeping this conversation going.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: U of Miami Football to Debut Eco-Conscious Uniforms; University of Louisiana-Lafayette Football Goes Zero-Waste; LA Galaxy and StubHub Center Go Strawless;

As our US-based GreenSportsBlog readers head out for the Labor Day weekend, we’re offering up a GSB News & Notes for your end-of-summer reading pleasure. The University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes will open their 2018 football season against LSU in Arlington, TX wearing eco-conscious uniforms from Adidas and Parley for the Oceans. But should the Hurricanes also be taking on climate change, given Miami’s vulnerability to it? About 60 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, the UL-Lafayette is embarking on a journey to host Louisiana’s first Zero-Waste football games. And, MLS’ LA Galaxy and the Stub Hub Center add to the growing number of teams and venues eliminating plastic straws.

 

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI HURRICANES DON ECO-FRIENDLY UNIFORMS; WHEN WILL THEY TAKE ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

When the University of Miami Hurricanes take the field Sunday night in their nationally televised season opener against LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, they will do so wearing new, alternate uniforms made from repurposed and upcycled materials, including plastic ocean waste. The uniforms are the result of a partnership between Miami, Adidas and Parley For The Oceans.

 

Miami Parley E-L

The University of Miami Hurricanes will take the field Sunday at LSU in eco-friendly alternate uniforms, thanks to a partnership with Adidas and Parley for the Oceans (Photo credit: Environmental Leader)

 

While the Hurricanes are the first American football team to partner with Parley for the Oceans and Adidas, they are following in the footsteps of European club soccer giants Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in wearing the eco-friendly alternate uniforms.

 

Real Madrid Parley

The Real Madrid, Parley for the Oceans-Adidas jersey (Photo credit: Adidas)

 

More than 70 percent of the special-edition uniform is fashioned from regenerated Econyl yarn (made by Aquafil of Trento, Italy), a raw material transformed from fishing nets and other nylon waste intercepted in marine environments, and from Parley Ocean Plastic, which also comes from waste that was intercepted from beaches and coastal communities. The result is a “durable, yet breathable fabric that is optimal for Adidas performance apparel,” according to a statement from the Hurricanes. Players will also wear cleats and gloves featuring recycled materials. The statement claims the cleats are the first-ever styles of eco-conscious footwear to be debuted on-field for NCAA football competition.

“Our players and staff are excited to wear the new adidas Parley jerseys and gear for our season opener,” Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “We’re also excited that Adidas and Parley are teaming up with UM to help promote sustainability around the world.”

 

 

I am happy to see the University of Miami take the Adidas-Parley plunge and to engage on the plastic ocean waste issue. Sports teams engaging on the environment is still too rare so this is a positive.

But (you knew there was going to be a but, right?), from where I sit, climate change is by far the biggest environmental challenge humanity faces — in fact, I’d argue it is the biggest challenge humanity faces, period. Bigger even than the plastic ocean waste issue.

And the Hurricanes are arguably the most logical big time college football program to take on climate change. After all, Miami is one of the world’s most vulnerable cities to the effects of climate change, including sea level rise. So I think UM missed the boat by not tying the Adidas-Parley uniforms to climate change as well as plastic ocean waste.

Maybe next year? What do you think?

 

 

UL-LAFAYETTE’S CAJUN FIELD LOOKS TO BECOME FIRST ZERO-WASTE STADIUM IN LOUISIANA

Take I-10 west 56 miles from the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and you arrive at the , University of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cajuns of the mid-level Sun Belt Conference play in the sizable shadow of perennial national power LSU of the powerful Southeastern Conference (SEC).

But UL-Lafayette is second to none in the Bayou State when it comes to Green-Sports. They are making a concerted effort to host Zero-Waste football games at 36,900 seat Cajun Field, starting with Saturday night’s opening game vs. Grambling.

 

Cajun Field

Cajun Field, home of the greening UL-Lafayette Cajuns (Photo credit: UL-Lafayette)

 

“This year we’re making the really big leap forward in removing all trash cans from inside Cajun Field and we’re only going to have recycling and compost cans,” Gretchen Vanicor, the director of UL-Lafayette’s Office of Sustainability, told Lafayette’s News15.

The university introduced recycling cans in and around the stadium in 2014. And replacing trash cans with compost cans is part of the school’s plan to get towards Zero-Waste (which means diverting at least 90 percent of waste from landfill), while also saving money.

“The great parts about doing sustainable operations is usually it’s not just better for the environment, it’s better for our economics too,” shared Vanicor, “Diverting food waste from landfill by composting means we pay far less in tipping fees. When we can find those projects that are sustainable economically but also environmentally, then we always go after them.”

The Cajuns are quite serious when it comes to going after Zero-Waste:

  • Food will be served on biodegradable plates or in reusable containers.
  • Wooden spoons, forks and knives will replace plastic utensils.
  • Drinks will be served from either aluminum cans or recyclable plastic cups, and fans will be able to request compostable straws.
  • Styrofoam cups will be nowhere in sight
  • And, as UL-Lafayette sustainability coordinator Monica Rowand told Josh Meny of KATC-TV3, “we’re switching this year to eco-craft, compostable paper [to line pizza boxes]”

 

 

According to Vanicor, Zero-Waste at football games is only a first step at UL-Lafayette: “We really want to be leaders both in our region and in our state for sustainability and our goal eventually is to get to the point where we’re a zero waste university.”

It seems to me as though LSU can learn from UL-Lafayette, at least in terms of Zero-Waste if not on the football field. Hey, they should play each other but that’s a story for a different column.

 

STUBHUB CENTER AND LA GALAXY ELIMINATE PLASTIC STRAWS

StubHub Center, the Carson, California home of Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy and, until 2020, the LA Chargers of the NFL, is now offering paper straws upon request to minimize pollution from plastic straws.

Fans will be provided paper straws upon request, with a limited number of plastic straws still available to serve those with special needs. An estimated 250,000 plastic straws will be kept out of landfills annually due to this new approach at StubHub Center

The initiative, in conjunction with food and beverage provider Levy, as part of the Galaxy’s Protect the Pitch sustainability program, launched last Friday when the team played crosstown rival LAFC to a 1-1 draw. By doing so, StubHub Center became the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS to serve drinks during games without a plastic straw.

 

El Trafico Corner of the Galaxy

LA Galaxy (white) and LAFC battle in their “El Trafico” rivalry game on August 24. That was the first game at StubHub Center to feature paper straws (Photo credit: Corner of the Galaxy)

 

The policy will also be in effect for all Los Angeles Chargers NFL games at StubHub Center.

“We are proud to continue to increase our sustainability efforts throughout StubHub Center in all of our gameday operations,” said StubHub Center General Manager Katie Pandolfo in a statement. “Protecting our environment is paramount and reducing single-use plastic straws can greatly decrease plastic pollution in our oceans.”

 


 

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